Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pause and Ponder sl 4 : Beyond Fear, there is Freedom .

Pause and Ponder sl. No 4 : BEYOND FEAR, THERE IS FREEDOM

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. ”

- Seneca

What a profound wisdom in simple words !!

[Actually, at times, I feel straight-talk advices like “ Be courageous”, “ Be adventurous”, “ Be fearless” etc. sound a little threatening and more than inspiring one to overcome fear, they tend to instill more of self-doubt ( thoughts like am I able enough to do all these ? ) because somewhere they seem to advocate more than ordinary guts. But when we think in terms of what Seneca says, it ultimately means the same thing – have more than ordinary guts – but it makes us feel this in a more comforting and re-assuring manner – it makes us feel that it is actually okay to fear a bit, but it is worth taking leap despite the fear; it makes us believe that, though something looks difficult before we start, once we start, it will turn out to be not as difficult as we thought and so just start ! It actually inspires you and helps you actually dare !!! ]

It is observed – too often, that we contemplate doing many things that we feel are worth doing; but somehow the worries of difficulties that may come our way, the fear of failure, the fear of ridicule, the fear of rejection, the fear of persecution etc. get better of us and we fail to muster up that little grain of courage to take the first step. But if we consciously and continuously fill our mind with simple, yet powerful thoughts like what Seneca said, soon it can become a way of life with us to dare

be it a small adventure like learning a new skill that you think you are not naturally wired for( e.g. I learning how to drive a car on road etc.) or doing something you are scared of ( like bunji jumping/ I donating blood etc.)

or a big adventure like climbing a mountain, or rafting , or doing stunts, going to space , or public speaking etc.

or a tall adventure like carrying disparate groups along to deliver a common goal or having your way in negotiation with strong opponents, or out-performing the market without compromising ethics in business etc.

or a great adventure like retaining your freedom of mind in the face of all bondages, standing up against injustice in any form, serving the sick and the suffering, inspiring others by own examples, challenging the conservative wisdom to invent/innovate/discover something new and creative, getting political freedom for your country from centuries of foreign subjugation etc.

But one thing is common in all this : a mindset that runs towards , and not away from what the mind fears !! It is a mindset that dares and you dare when you

D….. feel an intense Desire to pursue something worthy, though difficult

A …. believe that you have the Ability to do this, if required by acquiring the new skills,

by pooling others having the needed skill

R…… take Risk by actually taking action needed for the pursuit

E….. keep Evaluating mid-course for course-corrections, if needed and act


Personally, I draw tremendous inspiration from this quote of Seneca and there have been several trying situations in my life – both personal and professional, small and big, when these few words have helped me discover the ‘courageous I ’ within myself and as I look back… I feel simply splendid about it that I have always been able to look into my eyes in the mirror - not because I have achieved anything ‘great’ or ‘grand’ or ‘ historic’ or something that can make the world bow down in admiration. No, what makes me so joyous is that I see in the mirror a pair of eyes, that have always sparkled with a child-like twinkle of daring when faced with fear at very many moments of life! And also the fact that this is a pair of eyes that never had a reason to droop in shame for not having tried something worthy, but difficult.

And there is another beauty in daring: you will never find yourself alone once you dare on a just and worthy course; there will be helping hand(s) sent from Above !!

[ Photo credit : SBI Calendar for 2009 ]

Earlier I had narrated a few of my small encounters with fear in my posts on this blog on 12th Apr, 2008 and 5th August, 2008, which do not appear to have been widely read and so I am just reproducing here below to save my friends the pain ( !!) of clicking on the links. These may be of interest to go through in the context of the present post.


A few days back , I stumbled upon an interesting article by Steve – Whatever you fear, Face it . I agree 101% with what he suggests. Yeah .. if we fear something, we must face it and that is perhaps courage in the real sense. Courage is not the absence of fear - it is doing something worthwhile despite fear . And what u experience and gain in the process in terms of pure happiness that comes out of conquering fear & personal inner growth is a treasure, that eludes all those who keep to their safety zones and spend a lifetime without living a moment !

When I started my Blog ( gosh ! last year – and let it remain without any post for almost a year !!) – my wish was to paint different strokes !! At the moment, time apparently is a big constraint. I said apparently – as I find, for one year I just started the blog and did nothing – then since last one month, I am somehow making this time at least once a week to scribble something, now that I want it. Perhaps, that is the secret - really wanting to do something intensely . That is perhaps also the key to mustering up courage – to stand by yourself - to face the fear – the fear of uncertainties – the fear of failure – the fear of being ridiculed - the fear of what the world would think … etc.

Well I know I am basically a courageous person - have displayed it umpteen no. of times as I know it myself – and I know many others also acknowledge that ( ha, Ha ). But , good lord … , when it comes to pursuing my life goals ( now that I have finally spelt these out clearly before my self at least ), I find myself still dilly dallying . Clearly , that right amount of courage to switch course at this juncture of life perhaps is missing as yet !

Let me spell out my goals here – so that I will feel more responsible and be under more self-pressure to muster up what it takes to pursue them !

a) Use my God-gifted singing talent –for my own satisfaction and for giving something back to this world . I don’t know how much daring it will be to dare dream becoming a professional singer at this age – that too without learning music . But surely, God has blessed me with abundant talent to use it for charity shows.

b) Get associated with some orphanage/children’s home etc – do some charity plus “Shramdaan” ( i.e actually spend time with them and do things for them etc. ) .

c) Start writing ( feels a bit nice that at least there has been a beginning towards this goal …)

d) Popularise Oriya cuisine – there are so varied and tasty and healthy and typical dishes we cook , which are yet to be commonly known as, say the southy dishes or north delicacies or Bengali dishes . Let there be Oriya Thali concept – like Gujju Thali – and I m sure, many would love the taste and the combination .

Coming back to Courage - Courage is shedding fear and also shedding the habit of not shedding many things !


Courage is shedding fear .

I would always cherish the 25th June of 2008 – a great & memorable day for ME !! Yeah - I conquered fear and did something for the first time which I had been wanting to do whole my life so far .. DONATED BLOOD .

Oh, sounds so trivial - s..o..o many people do that .. that too, time and again. What’s so great about it when it comes to me ? Nothing actually – nothing great about the act per se – only when I look at it in my context ( I simply can not stand sight of blood or needle entering into flesh ( Yup!!) & do not laugh – I close my eyes even when a bloody scene comes on screen !!!) - then I feel this sense of satisfaction that, yeah , I have done it – notwithstanding that great urge to run away from the bed when I had to keep on pumping myself and some sinking feeling was overpowering me after a minute or so & the process was to take another 3 /4 minutes. And I actually had a little bit of black-out after it – felt really embarrassed to hog all the attention-both from the doctor and colleagues, who had themselves given blood minutes back and were cheerfully going around in an absolutely normal condition . Well, that was really making me feel bad – but had no control. Actually, earlier also I had similar experience of sinking after giving blood for test during first pregnancy – may be, psychological because of my fear.

Coming back to point – when I look back to find out how I could actually do this, a few things come out sharply :

a. an intense desire to do . ( Honestly, I always think blood donation to be one of the noblest acts – basically u r giving life to a needy in due course . So always wanted to do something of value going beyond self .)

b. taking opportunity of doing when the circumstances give a chance. (Earlier, apart from the fear, either the timing, or the venue, or the organisers .. or perhaps the lack of intensity of desire.., something or other was coming in the way of my participating in any blood donation camp. This time, it was being organised in my office premises, by our office to celebrate our foundation day and was being organised in a professional manner with the help of doctors and disposable syringes. In my current assignment, it was possible to come down and participate, sparing an hour or so .

c. Actually throwing yourself first into the situation before your fear takes better of u . (Yeah, this time I just made up my mind, came down to the venue . Then, although I did have the impulse of running away , I did not do that as I could not have shown my weakness before my colleagues – u see, each of us do face many occasions in life when we just have to live upto a reputation . Ha, ha . So I knew , once I go to the venue , I will somehow manage to participate and that actually happenned .

d. The feeling after conquering fear is just splendid – charging u with greater vitality and greater happiness !

Thank GOD for helping me feel good about myself .

Same night, I could also be of help to a colleague, who would have otherwise missed his train. It was really raining hard when I was leaving office and here was this person, standing and worried about how he would make it to the train, that was to leave just about 20 minutes from then. There was no auto in sight also. I offered to drop him at his hotel, which is near to the Rly station . I am usually very scared about driving when it is pouring, that too at night – due to very poor visibility. Number two – I would not normally venture to drive to an unknown place in such inclement weather . But I did it – and am happy that I did it .

By the way, last year , I decided to drive my car personally – and, for me , this was a very bold ( read courageous ) decision. My husband & daughters were scared visibly – had no trust in my ability to drive a car . Not their fault – my track record of road alertness, sense of (geographical) direction, route awareness etc. was extremely poor. I agree with them and appreciated that they love me and were concerned about my safety – as also safety of others. But what I never liked about it was the hidden message that I CAN NOT drive . That was not acceptable . When the whole world is able to drive, why can not I ? Nevertheless, I restrained myself in view of my job pressure, erratic timings and requirement of the vehicle by my daughters for various purposes during the day. So continued with dependance on hired drivers till my daughters finished with their classes here, although it was taking a heavy toll on me ( & my car … one would shudder to look at the dents and damages that my poor car had to bear all the time ! I was so disgusted with repeated touch-ups that finally just left it with all the dents & scratches . In fact, that gave my car such a distinct identity ( ha, ha) that all my people at office always recognised my car effortlessly .) . Once my children finished with their exams, I decided to take over .

I acknowledged two things –

(i) I am not naturally wired to be a driver & do have some weaknesses which could spell hazard on road;

(ii) but at the same time , it is possible to learn driving and fix those weaknesses to an extent, required for safe driving.

So, I decided to learn and immediately called up a driving school. Timings were very difficult for me – very early in the morning and in evenings, I had to go from office for night driving & come back to office again. I can still recollect the first time I had to drive on a busy road – all alone without the trainer by my side - so..o scary ! How relieved I felt after parking at the office ! While returning, it really took strong will power not to accede to everyone’s request to make the office driver sit beside while I drove back home. Of course, for two days, one of my colleagues followed me separately, while I drove back home .

So , this was also a story of victory of courage over fear – and the basic tenets of the approach are the same in every such story :

acknowledge what is required to be done ,

acknowledge if you fear doing that,

believe that it is possible to learn higher skills in the domain of what you fear , and once you learn the skills, you will be better placed to face your fear ;

collect information, gather knowledge and learn skills required in the field .

Act - do what you wanted to, in spite of fear. Success will be only a matter of time.

I am sure, everyone’s life is full of such moments, when, inspite of fear, we take action, because it is worth it and in the process, grow stronger and wiser. I am reminded of what Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,

“ When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.”

Courage is shedding the habit of not shedding many things

Yes, one of the things that we normally do not think of shedding is a secure job !!

Well, I am not talking about today’s youngsters – who are job-hopping rather a little too frequently. They belong to another world with a different canvass as context. I am referring to our generation – the 40/45 plus, who usually relish the comfort of being settled down and somewhere along the line, tend to lose the appetite for venturing into an uncertain world to chase their life-goals.

I do not say that to be courageous, u must shed ( leave) a secure job, just for the heck of it . No, it is definitely not to suggest recklessness. The point that I would like to make is that there is a tendency among many of us just to keep on clutching to the current job, even if it is no longer giving u that kick and u are already in a position, where u can afford to take a call on other opportunities beckoning u or just to chase your dreams. Here comes, what I would call courage, courage to quit. Newer beginnings are possible only if we are ready to change the status quo – ready to come out of inertia. Yes, do a thorough analysis of your own situation to ensure that u have already put in place a fall back system to take care of your personal responsibilities (like self-sustenance / family responsibilities, which just can not be compromised) before u quit the known and start exploring the uncertain. Once u achieve this position, then all that u require for chasing your dreams is a drive to spread your wings with courage to soar against the wind, if that be so !!

By the way – right now I am also on my way to explore the uncertain – the first step already taken – quitting a secure job. Yeah – my fall back system for financial needs is ready. Feeling a little scared.. but excited . Isn’t that what courage ultimately is ? I am tempted to quote a few great personalities, from whose words, I have always drawn inspiration .

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
- Ambrose Redmoon

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.
- John Wayne

Courageous people are still afraid, but they don't let the fear paralyze them.

- Steve pavlina


sambit said...

Fear is an imaginary preview about the possible challenges you may have to face. The images may be threatening. But you do not know if they are harmful till you know them. You can only know them by meeting them.

Anonymous said...

An Inspirational story … Mr. Madhavan would not be a farmer.....if he would have not fought the odds and dared. Thought you would like the article and here it goes.


An engineer from IIT, now a farmer
This is an inspiring story.It helps you dare to think beyond the usual.It shows how single minded dedication and focused work can help one beget the dreams.One who helps himself,the devinity reaches out to help them.Read on.
Off-beat is in. The oft beaten track, not so.
One of the most interesting themes at this year's Pan-IIT event was the session on rural transformation. IITians who have chosen an offbeat career hogged the limelight at the event. In this series, we feature some of the IITians who preferred to be different, rather than get into a corporate rat race.
The star at the event was R Madhavan, an alumnus of IIT-Madras. This is Madhavan's success story as a farmer

Passion for agriculture

I had a passion for agriculture even when I was young. I don't know how my love for agriculture started. I only know that I have always been a nature lover.
I used to have a garden even when I was a teenager. So, from a home garden, a kitchen garden, I gradually became a farmer! My mother used to be very happy with the vegetables I grew.

Image: R Madhavan.

Studying at IIT-Madras

My family was against my ambition of becoming an agriculturist. So, I had to find a livelihood for myself.
I wrote IIT-JEE and got selected to study at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. I enjoyed studying mechanical engineering.
My intention was to transform what I study into what I love; mechanisation of farming. I felt the drudgery in farming is much more than in any other industry, and no one had looked into it.
Working for ONGC after IIT
I started my career at the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). My father refused to give me any money to start farming. So I asked the officials to let me work at the offshore sites, on the rigs.
The advantage was that I could work on rigs for 14 days and then take 14 days off. I chose to work on the rigs for nine years, uninterrupted.

Image: The Electonics Centre at IIT-Madras.

My first farm land

Madhavan's farm.

After 4 years, I saved enough money to buy six acres of land. I bought land at Chengelpet near Chennai.
I chose that land because the plot had access to road and water. Back in 1989, a man in a pair of trousers aroused curiosity among the farming community. That was not the image of a farmer!
Tough beginning as a farmer
I became a full fledged farmer in 1993. It was tough in the beginning. Nobody taught me how to farm. There was no guidance from the gram sevaks or the University of Agriculture.
I ran from pillar to post but couldn't find a single scientist who could help me. I burnt my fingers. My first crop was paddy and I produced 2 tonnes from the six acres of land, it was pathetic.
When I lost all my money, my father said I was stupid. I told him, it didn't matter as I was learning. It was trial and error for me for three years. Until 1997, I was only experimenting by mingling various systems.

Going to Israel to learn

In 1996, I visited Israel because I had heard that they are the best in water technology. Take the case of corn: they harvest 7 tonnes per acre whereas we produce less than a tonne.
They harvest up to 200 tonnes of tomatoes, whereas here it is 6 tonnes, in similar area of land. I stayed in one of the kibbutz, which is a co-operative farm for 15 days.
I understood what we do is quite primitive. It was an eye opener for me. They treat each plant as an industry. A plant producing one kilo of capsicum is an industry that has 1 kilo output.
I learnt from them that we abuse water. Drip irrigation is not only for saving water but it enhances your plant productivity. We commonly practice flood irrigation where they just pump water. As per the 2005 statistics, instead of 1 litre, we use 750 litres of water.

Image: R Madhavan.

Dr Lakshmanan, my guru

I met Dr Lakshmanan, a California-based NRI, who has been farming for the last 35 years on 50-60,000 acres of land.
He taught me farming over the last one decade. Whatever little I have learnt, it is thanks to him.
I knew a farm would give me much better returns in terms of money as well as happiness. Working for money and working for happiness are different. I work and get happiness. What more do you need?
No guidance in India
I said at one platform that we have to change the curriculum of the agricultural universities. What they teach the students is not how to farm, but how to draw loans from a bank!
What they learn cannot be transformed to reality or to the villages. The problem in the villages is not mentioned in the university. There is a wide gap and it is getting worse.

Making profits

After burning my fingers for four years, from 1997 onwards, I started making profits.
Even though it took me four years, I did not lose hope. I knew this was my path ven though I didn't have any guidance from anyone.
In those days, communication was slow. Today, I can get guidance from Dr Lakshmanan on Skype or Google Talk, or through e-mail.
I send him the picture of my problem and ask his guidance. In those days, it took time to communicate. There was no Internet or connectivity.
That was why it took me four years to learn farming. Today, I would not have taken more than six months or even less to learn the trick!

The farming cycle

I started crop rotation after 1997. In August, I start with paddy and it is harvested in December.
I plant vegetables in December itself and get the crops in February. After that, it is oil seeds like sesame and groundnut, which are drought-resistant, till May.
During May, I go on trips to learn more about the craft. I come back in June-July and start preparations on the land to get ready for August. In 1999, I bought another four acres. My target is a net income of Rs 100,000 per annum per acre. I have achieved up to Rs 50,000.

Selling the products

I sell my produce on my own. I have a jeep and bring what I produce to my house and sell from there. People know that I sell at home. I don't go through any middle man.
I take paddy to the mill, hull it and sell it on my own. In the future, I have plans to have a mill too. These days, people tell me in advance that they need rice from me. I have no problem selling my produce.

Engineering helps in farming

More than any other education, engineering helps in farming because toiling in the soil is only 20 per cent of the work. About 80 per cent of farming needs engineering skills.
Science is a must for any farming. I have developed a number of simple, farmer-friendly tools for farming areas like seeding, weeding, etc. as we don't have any tools for small farmers.
If I have 200 acres of land, I can go for food processing, etc. My next project is to lease land from the small farmers for agriculture. The village will prosper with food processing industries coming there. My yield will also be more with more land.

Abdul Kalam visits the farm

Dr Abdul Kalam visited my farm when he was the President, after hearing about what I was doing. He spent around two hours on my farm.
During his visit, he said: "We need not one, but one million Madhavans!"
If I am able to inspire or create even one entrepreneur, I will be very happy, because that is what Dr Kalam wished me to do.

Experimental farming

Every acre of my land has ten cents of experimental farming. I have done this for the last 15 years.
This is a part of my research and development. Some of it may fail, but even if I succeed at one thing, that is enough for me.

Entrepreneurship in the village

I feel that the number of people engaged only in farming should come down. Instead of ten people, there should only be two people. I am not saying the eight should go jobless.
What we should do is, create employment in the villages based on other agro activities like value addition, processing, etc.
We can go for mechanisation in large areas so that the cost per acre goes down. In India, the cost per every meal is very high. So, my next concern is, how do you make it cheap.
In America, the unskilled working for one hour can earn three meals a day. Here, in the rural areas, even if they work for one day, they can't get one meal a day. How do you bring down the cost? By producing more food. So, my intention is to make more food.

Food insecurity in India

The United Nations says 65 per cent of the world population suffers from food deficiency, and India ranks first in the list.
About 49 per cent of our children are undernourished. This means our future generation will be affected.
If we are not going to give attention to this area, we are in for real trouble. Food insecurity is more threatening than an atom bomb!

snigdha said...

Yes, Sambit, 'meeting the fear' is the best way to know and deal with them. Thx

Hi friend ! this is really inspiring - thx a ton for sharing this real life story; I am sure, our other friends would find it highly thought-provoking. Yes, we need many more Madhavan's with such outstanding courage for great adventures - actually applying technical education to something as fundamental & basic a need as food cultivation !! He is right - food insecurity is more explosive than an atom bomb.This is also what Dr Kiran Bedi meant when she said that education should be for service and one of the parameters to evaluate educational institutions should be student-tracking: how the students of these top-ranking insts contributing to the society - making a difference to the lives of people?

Deba said...

Fear is a psychological feeling, an apprehension that something bad would happen if one does a certain thing. So, mostly it is negative in character. Of course, some sort of fear factor is required, especially for younger minds which lack potential to take a decision on most of the matters. On the contrary, courage is an attitude that helps push out the fear from one’s mind. It has positive characteristics. But, building up of courage is very much circumstantial. For example, a financially stable person may have the courage to switch over from one job to another. On the other hand, a person who is not financially stable, who has not much qualification, who is shouldering a number of responsibilities, may have the fear of throwing himself in a state of uncertainties while thinking about changing his job.

One question I would like to ask here: how many of us dare to speak the truth? Most of the time, we cannot muster enough courage to speak the truth because of the fear of hurting someone or a group of persons thereby straining our relationship with them. If we can’t tell a lie, we keep ourselves mum most of the time. That is also timidity. So, fear factor would always be there in one’s life unless and until one maintains a real sacred life when one views one’s only relation is with God, the Almighty.

Nevertheless, one should always look out for good occasions to shed one’s fears and become courageous. I hope, the instances narrated in your post would encourage the readers to get rid of from some of their fear factors at least and act in a bold manner. Otherwise, the popular saying “JO DARGAYA O’ MARGAYA” would be applicable to them.


snigdha said...

Thx Deb, for your value-adds. I agree with u that leaving a secure job is a drastic step which should not be taken without a fall back system to take care of yr financial responsibilities,if any. I have also made that amply clear in my post. Any decision , for that matter, is always unique to the circumstances of the person who is taking it. My only submission is : while taking any decision ( eventually, every moment boils down to a choice, a decision), we should not be paralysed by fear of consequences, if what we are trying to do is something we feel is worth doing. Fear, as an emotion, is very useful and in fact, one of the manifestations of our internal, intuitive guidance system and prompts one to be cautious - which is not bad thing ab initio. When it becomes bad and obstructive depends upon so many other things .

As it is very correctly said, everything is ultimately a matter of context and proportions !!

And regarding not telling truth to avoid hurting others,my approach is ; is this truth going to achieve something positive other than hurting the other - if no, there is no point telling a truth just for the heck of it: if yes, let me make an honest attempt to find out if there is some other way in which i will achieve that positive purpose and at the same time not hurt anyone; if that is not possible, then i must tell the truth. Of course, it is always easier said than done, and I must confess that I have also had many moments of regret ! Yes, that unfaltering state of truthfulness is possible only when you connect only to the Supreme Power. But what's wrong if at least we try ?

Deba said...

Thanx for your valuable response. I'm completely agreed with you. You have justified the points very nicely and there is no chance of having any point of contention.

It is really right that everything is ultimately a matter of context and proportions. But, we need to have a positive approach so that we can lead a better and easier life by taking right decisions at the right time.